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What Is the Eggshell Skull Rule?

Posted in personal injury on May 3, 2020

Every victim is unique. No two people are exactly the same, with identical strengths and weaknesses. Some victims have medical histories, past injuries and pre-existing conditions that could exacerbate their injuries in an accident. The eggshell skull rule exists for these types of claimants. Learn how this doctrine might affect your claim as an accident victim with a pre-existing condition in Texas.

What Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Mean?

 The eggshell skull rule states that a defendant who is liable for a plaintiff’s damages will be liable for them as they are. The defendant will have to pay for the plaintiff’s related medical bills, lost wages and other damages even if that plaintiff had a pre-existing condition that led to more severe injuries than another victim likely would have suffered. The defendant must take the plaintiff as-is, pre-existing conditions and all. The eggshell skull rule holds a defendant responsible for a plaintiff’s uncommon and unforeseeable reaction to the accident or tort. 

 Even if the plaintiff had a peculiar condition that magnified the effects of the tort, the defendant will be liable for the damages as they are. The rule takes its name from a common example of how it works: if a plaintiff had a weakened skull, as brittle as an eggshell, and sustained a catastrophic brain injury in an accident because of this pre-existing condition, the defendant will be responsible for all the victim’s losses – even if a victim with a stronger skull would not have had the same injuries. The doctrine holds a defendant liable for all the consequences of his or her actions, including those that were not foreseeable.

Does the Eggshell Skull Rule Apply to Emotional Injuries?

 Texas law allows a plaintiff to claim damages for both physical and emotional injuries. Emotional injuries can refer to post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional distress, grief, humiliation, anxiety, depression, loss of consortium and lost quality of life. As of now, however, the eggshell skull rule does not apply to emotional injuries. It is only usable as a doctrine in physical injury claims. That does not, however, mean you will be unable to obtain fair compensation for your emotional injuries after an accident.

 Although you may not be able to use the eggshell skull rule, you and your personal injury lawyer could argue your eligibility for noneconomic damages by demonstrating your losses using evidence. Emotional injuries may be invisible, but that does not mean they are impossible to prove during an injury claim. Evidence of emotional injuries can include medical records, notes from mental health professionals, expert witness testimony, an injury journal, and testimony from your friends and family members. 

Does It Vary by State?

 The eggshell rule can apply to both criminal and civil cases. In a criminal case, prosecutors can use the rule to hold the defendant accountable for all the injuries and consequences a victim suffered due to the crime, even if a pre-existing condition exacerbated these injuries. The eggshell skull rule, or a version of it, exists in most states. However, the exact law and specifics of each statute can vary by state and county.

 In Texas, the eggshell skull rule protects plaintiffs with pre-existing injuries. It is up to the plaintiff or his or her lawyer to prove the existence and extent of the injury through medical documentation. The lawyer will also need to prove the defendant’s majority share of fault to protect the plaintiff’s eligibility for compensation. Texas is a comparative negligence state, meaning a plaintiff’s partial fault will reduce his or her financial recovery. If the courts find a plaintiff more than 50% at fault for the injury, the comparative negligence law bars the plaintiff from recovery entirely. Hire a personal injury attorney in Dallas to help you with your injury claim, especially if it involves the eggshell skull rule.